7 Essential Cocktail Bars in New Orleans

On the hunt for the best cocktail bars in the Crescent City? Bookmark these exceptional go-to spots. Consider it your lucky seven.

New Orleans, birthplace of the cocktail, still has a few surprises up its sleeve. Check out these seven cool cocktail establishments from French Quarter mainstays to Uptown local hangouts. One thing they all have in common is the know-how to whip up a primo cocktail. Plus, you won’t starve. Most menus include appetizing small plates to pair with your rad drink of choice.

CURE

Hop on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, whir past antebellum homes to Uptown, home of Freret Street favorite – CURE. Ceiling high glass shelves glisten with artful bottles of bourbon, absinthe, rum, vodka and brandy. It’s about new takes on old classics alongside a sumptuous mix of small plates. Oh, and the cheese and charcuterie plates can’t be beat. Order the house’s version of the Sazerac, a New Orleans classic, or live a little and try the Scotch Bonnet, pairing the earthy taste of its namesake with a bit of heat and sweet pineapple. Don’t let the dizzying amount of choices overwhelm you, the bartenders here are welcoming and eager to share their knowledge. This is the South, after all.

Cane & Table

Situated in the southern end of the French Quarter, Cane & Table is equal parts restaurant and cocktail bar. It does a great job at both, celebrating glorious cocktails and phenomenal eats. The mood is light and laidback as it should be – this is a Caribbean-inspired eatery for goodness sakes. Tiki drinks with updated twists are the thing here. Try the Two Palms blended with gin, coconut and lime topped with grated nutmeg. Of course, the house made rum punch is always a hit. Watch out though, it’s easy to lose count. That’s where the classic beef empanadas and sweet plantains with crema save the day. Hell, stay for dinner and settle in for the Haitian braised ribs in a delicious habanero hot sauce served with peas and rice. No one will tell.Barrel Proof

Make no mistake this is a whiskey bar. Located in the Lower Garden District, Barrel Proof will be your happy place with over 300 crafted varieties of whiskey to select. Not into straight whiskey? Go for a craft cocktail – order the Fire When Ready, a curious combination of mescal, Campari, vermouth, espresso liqueur and chocolate-walnut bitters. The Battle of Wits is equally intriguing with averna, green chartreuse, lime and eucalyptus. Barrel Proof almost prides itself on being “non-fancy” with its corrugated tin roof and sparse design. Don’t let that fool you; expert bartenders are ready to dole out their favorite mixes and the occasional pop-up kitchen is also a nice surprise. There’s nothing quite like a neighborhood bar to make you feel right at home, even when you’re a visitor.

Manolito

Savor a little slice of Havana in the French Quarter. The festive Latin vibe works well with the cool lineup of elevated daiquiris and top-notch papa dobles (Hemingway’s favorite cocktail – a mix of rum, grapefruit and maraschino liqueur). The owners’ research trips to the famed Floridita Bar in Cuba have paid off. Close your eyes, take a sip and be transported to a tropical paradise. Sample the Floridita daiquiri, a boozy delicious mixture of Constante Ribailagua, Bacardi Superior, lime and maraschino liqueur. A frozen version of a New Orleans classic called the Zazerac and old school mojitos are coveted beverages too. All this frozen rum mixology goes divinely well with the golden-fried, ham and cheese croquetas served with a delicious salsa verde or a perfectly pressed Cuban sandwich. Obviously, this isn’t the sort of place to count calories.

Bar Marilou

Bar Marilou
Photo credit: @bucketlistnola

It’s hard to believe this bar tucked inside The Ace Hotel was once a law library. Nowadays, this Warehouse District bar’s décor leans more toward posh eccentricity. Tiger-themed upholstery on the bar stools and flooring make a quirky first impression. Stuffy wood paneling has been transformed with glossy red paint. Get in on the fun and sip a Tokyo Record – a tasty mixture of Japanese whisky, Amontillado sherry and St. Germain infused with lemon and vanilla. The Lady Creole, served with tequila, bitter orange marmalade, verjus and cinnamon is also a patron pleaser. Small plates complement cocktails. Sample the namesake Pommes Marilou – crispy potatoes served alongside crème fraiche with a dollop of caviar. It feels both comforting and highbrow at the same time, a lot like the cocktail bar it’s served in.

Jewel of the South

Helmed by Chris Hannah, a James Beard Award-winning bartender, Jewel of the South, draws you in with its combination of culinary and cocktail gifts. Historic, pint-sized and charming – the drink of choice here is the Brandy Crosta, comprised of cognac, lemon juice, Curacao and maraschino liqueur with a sugared rim. Love a good vodka sour? Order the Spills Like Thread with green apple, orange and a hint of ginger. A full dinner menu is characterized as “British meets Cajun” and can be enjoyed upstairs or in the brick-paved courtyard. The Southern Pearls – a cucumber dish with cress and pickled serrano or the smoked ham with Satsuma marmalade are wickedly good, but you be the judge.

The Elysian Bar

Head to Hotel Peter and Paul in the bohemian Marigny District, neighboring the French Quarter, to experience The Elysian Bar. Relish a pisco delight called Mama Ouilla perfectly crafted with pamplemousse liqueur and lime. The Ward Eight is a fine go-to stirring rye whiskey, Curacao, pomegranate and lemon for a refreshing cocktail with a solid kick. Menu standouts include the steamed mussels in tomato-fennel broth with chorizo and the sourdough flatbread topped with mushrooms, shallots and whipped ricotta. Nice weather warrants sitting in the elegant courtyard. Surrounded by lush foliage and the soothing trickle of a fountain, it’s an ideal spot to kick back with an Old Fashioned à la Don Draper – minus the angst.

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